Skills for the world as it will be

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (535 BC–475 BC) was one of the first to put change officially on the doctrinal map. “Everything flows, nothing stands still”, he’s quoted as saying. Science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, took it a step further: “No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” How best to prepare people to operate in tomorrow’s world? “With a billion new workers competing for the world’s jobs, simply being American is not an entitlement to a secure, high-wage job,” warns the US Council on Competitiveness. “America’s economic and political standing are fundamentally bound to the capacity to innovate.” Similar issues exercise the minds of business, political and policy leaders in Australia, a developed economy somewhat cushioned by a commodities boom and close proximity to the economic powerhouses of Asia. “To maximise the opportunities that will flow from the continued rise of Asia, Australia needs to continue to change and innovate — as it has done in the past,” the Australian Government says. “We need policy settings and institutions that harness the talents of our people and allow them to make the most productive use of those talents and respond to a changing world.” What roles people play and the skillsets they bring will be crucial to a nation’s ability to innovate, adds European innovation consultant and blogger, Paul Hobcraft. “Clearly, we are facing continual adaptation and the consistent search for adding value, not just to what we sell but also to what we have available in resources to exploit it.” He cites recent work by the European Union on transferable skills and the implications for future employability, adaptability and occupational mobility. The EU team identified hard skills that are job-specific and not easily transferable, and generic hard skills such as economic awareness, ICT skills and basic skills in science and technology that have high transferability across sectors and occupations. The team also noted 22 soft skills ranging from problem-solving to interpersonal skills that are considered critical in adapting to and prospering in the new world of work. “If globalisation is the new playing field, then innovation is the way you play the game in the 21st century”, says the US Council on Competitiveness. “ The ability to rapidly translate knowledge and insights into new high-value products and service is imperative to addressing many of the grand challenges facing the US and the world.”


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